A climate protester who was jailed for spraying Insulate Britain on a court building has had her appeal dismissed.
Brighton tutor Venetia Carter had already been released from prison after serving a week of her 14-day sentence for spraying the washable paint on Crawley Magistrates Court in April.
She decided to launch the appeal as a point of principle, believing that two weeks in prison for minor criminal damage in the context of a protest was an excessive punishment.
But this week, a court dismissed her appeal, saying it agreed with the original judge that her actions were an attack on the judicial system.
Chloe Gardner, representing Carter, said she had sprayed the slogan on 4 April following a first appearance on charges of obstructing the highway during an Insulate Britain protest.
She said: “Miss Carter says the intention behind the words was to first of all alert the pubic that criminal charges were being taken against peaceful protest by Insulate Britain.
It was not to do with the judiciary it was to do with the government, the CPS and police. It was a message to raise public awareness of how the government were dealing with protest laws, not a message directed at all against the independent judiciary.”
Ms Gardner said district judge Amanda Kelly was presiding that day – and was also the judge who sent her to prison for criminal damage a month later.
She raised the case of Charlie Turner, who appeared before district judge Kelly for criminal damage in March, for spray painting anti-Israel slogans on an office building in Brighton.
He pleaded not guilty, and district judge Kelly found him guilty – but gave him a conditional discharge and ordered him to pay a victim surcharge of £22.
However, Judge Christine Laing, who sat with a magistrate to hear the appeal at Lewes Crown Court on Tuesday, said this was not relevant.
She said: “We are not here to judge Judge Kelly. She’s an experienced district judge. We are here to review the sentence passed.”
Ms Gardner again said Carter’s spray painted words were not aimed at the judiciary and, quoting district judge Kelly’s sentencing remarks, she said: “It was absolutely not ‘sticking up two fingers at the rule of law’.”
Justice Laing replied: “There’s a lot of other buildings in Crawley where it could have been done – I’m not encouraging that one iota.
“By doing it on a court building is that not trying to bring the judicial system into an argument it should have nothing to do with?”
Miss Gardner said: “It’s against, quite clearly, the government. It’s to say do something, look at what’s happening with climate change and even now with the cost of living and the government is not even in a functioning state.”
Justice Laing replied: “You know it’s inappropriate to make comments that are effectively political.
“I’m not interested in your views and the court is not interested in holding court over the rights and wrongs of any protests.
“It’s simply assessing whether the sentence was appropriate.”
Passing judgement, she said: “The right to lawful protest is of course enshrined in law and we fully accept that.
“The courts are here to uphold the law and deal with those who are found to have broken it.
“That includes those who believe what they were doing when protesting lawfully but who have gone too far.
“That’s not a decision for me to make. Juries make that decision.
“It’s vital that courts must be impartial at all times and seen to be so.
“I hear that Miss Carter had been here for a court hearing itself in relation to protests that had taken place.
“Whilst having been bailed in respect of that matter, she then came outside and tlt the Insulate Britain logo directly to the court building.
“Irrespective of what she thought that was going to mean, the reality is that would have been seen by everybody who saw it as she made considerable efforts by taking pictures and those being posted on social media. It therefore became a direct attempt to involve the court system in this matter.
“Sentence guidelines cannot cover all circumstances. We have to apply them as best we can.
“We take the view that district judge Kelly was quite right to find it came within the top category. This was a direct and deliberate attack of vandalism to bring the courts into the Insulate Britain protest.
“The criminal justice system that operates the rule of law is one of the principle functions of this democracy.
“If people try to undermine it by undermining the integrity and impartiality of the court system you damage that rule of law.
“As I say for those reasons we say that district judge Kelly was quite right to say as she did.
“The appeal is dismissed.”
Carter was ordered to pay £330 costs, and also still has to pay £150 compensation to the court for washing off the paint.